Wednesday, August 31, 2011

A Response to Richard Dawkins

This past Friday, on the Opinion Exchange page of the Minneapolis "Star-Tribune," there appeared an editorial, written by Richard Dawkins and titled "View on evolution say a lot about a candidate", that literally caused my blood-pressure to rise to dangerous levels. What grabbed my attention was the sub-headline which read: "Evolution is a fact, as securely established as any in science. Those who deny it are likely ignorant in other fields as well." I trust that your blood is beginning to get a little warmer just reading those two statements.

Richard Dawkins is an atheist and avowed evolutionist. In his most recent book, titled, "The God Delusion", he basically states that God does not exist and has never existed. To adapt from the teachings of Karl Marx, religion - for Dawkins and others of his ilk, that would mean any worldview that even fosters some concept of a god - is merely an opiate (or a crutch) for the people.

Dawkins began his editorial - originally published by the "Washington Post" - by focusing upon Texas governor and Republican Presidential Candidate Rick Perry who has championed the cause for the teaching of both creationism and evolution within the Texas school systems. Listen to what Dawkins thinks of Governor Perry: "...There is nothing unusual about Perry. Uneducated fools can be found in every country and every period of history, and they are not unknown in high office. What is unusual about today's Republican Party is this: In any other party and in any other country, an individual may occasionally rise to the top in spite of being an uneducated ignoramus. In today's Republican Party 'in spite of' is not the phrase we need. Ignorance and lack of education are positive qualifications, bordering on obligatory." Now are you getting a little fired-up? Let me rephrase what Dawkins has said just in case you missed it: If you are a Republican and you do not accept the evolutionary theory, then you must be some type of ignorant, red-necked, back-woods, uneducated fool; you certainly have no hope of advancing in the world where real knowledge is maintained."

Friends, that was just the first column of the five column editorial. Ready for column two? Now Dawkins begins his thrust against creationism and his defense of evolution. "Evolution is a fact, as securely established as any in science, and he who denies it betrays woeful ignorance and lack of education, which likely extends to other fields as well." Stop here! Because I don't accept evolution, according to Dawkins, then I will probably be ignorant and lacking educational foundations for business, for literature, for politics, for medicine - for that matter, any other field of learning. Wow! I do feel ignorant in some fields - electronics, for example - but I didn't realize I was that far off base in other areas. I wished someone had told me this a long time ago - it would have spared me some headaches along the way.

Dawkins then continues, "Evolution is the stunningly simple but elegant explanation of our very existence and the existence of every living creature on the planet. Thanks to Darwin, we now understand why we are here and why we are the way we are. You cannot be ignorant of evolution and be a cultivated and adequate citizen of today." Feeling good about yourself about now? Or is your blood-pressure beginning to rise?

"Darwin's idea is arguably the most powerful ever to occur to a human mind. ... A theory that assumes most of what it is trying to explain is a bad theory. That is why the creationist or 'intelligent design' theory is such a rotten theory." Hold the fort! Has Dawkins forgotten all the "missing links" in his "scientific fact of evolution?" Since Darwin first published his book in the mid-part of the 19th century not one single "missing link" has been found. Friends, that is a fact. And yet those "missing links" are the foundation for the supposed incontrovertible fact of evolution? It seems to me, that by Dawkins's definition, evolution is a bad theory.

Dawkins then seeks to help us to understand the complexity of the body of a bird - and he does a great job of defining its complexity. He then states, "The whole machine is immensely improbable in the sense that, if you randomly shook up the parts over and over again, never in a million years would they fall into the right shape." And you know, he is right. But here is where Dawkins misses the point. What if there was a Master Designer who actually made that little bird? Could He not once again assemble those millions of parts to create another bird? Friends, is that not what God does with each new birth. Last Saturday we attended the Minnesota State Fair. One of the buildings we stopped at was the "Birthing Barn." What a crowd was there! And what were we observing?- the miracle of birth - of chickens, turkeys, calves, lambs, and piglets. I was reminded of those powerful words of David in Psalm 139, speaking of his own creation in his mother's womb: "For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother's womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made..." (Psalm 139:13-14).

Finally Dawkins states, "The rival theory to explain the functional complexity of life - creationism - is about as bad a theory as has ever been proposed. It is such a bad theory it doesn't deserve to be called one at all, and it certainly doesn't deserve to be taught alongside evolution in science classes." Did you hear what he was saying? Creationism is only worthy of being tossed into the trash. Throw God into the dumpster, if you will. Through Darwin we have figured out this thing we call life. Frankly, friends, I don't want to be standing any where near Richard Dawkins on Judgment Day. If you and I are angry - at least I know I am angry - can you imagine what God is feeling when He knows this man's heart?

Let me share one more quote from this long editorial: "To die in ignorance of its (evolution) elegance, and power to explain our own existence, is a tragic loss, comparable to dying without ever having experienced great music, great literature or a beautiful sunset." My response to Richard Dawkins is this: "Richard, you are the one who has lost. You have gone through life and never known what great music really is. You have experienced life and have never known the real beauty of the world around you. You have been the greater loser because you have failed to know the great and awesome God behind everything you see. Richard, in your eyes I may be one of the greatest ignoramuses that ever lived, but a day is coming when you will realize how ignorant you have truly been. Only then, Richard, it will be too late to make any changes."

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Wow! What a Week!

Wow! What a week this has been and it is only Wednesday. Where does a person begin? Well, let's start with the earthquakes this past week. First, there was one on Monday in southwestern Colorado near the New Mexico border - nearly a 5 on the Richter scale. Some damage done, but not extensive. Then, yesterday there was a 5.8 quake epicentered near Richmond, VA. But the quake was felt as far north as Maine and as far west as Chicago. Some minimal damage done, but the assessments are still ongoing. Strongest earthquake to hit the East Coast since 1897. It was interesting that over the weekend Marlys and I had been talking about what is happening in the world and she commented, "Honey, you know we have not had an earthquake that made news for awhile." Guess she spoke too soon.

Continuing along the weather-front, Hurricane Irene has its eyes set upon the Eastern seaboard. Depending upon the weather-service one listens to, this could be either a Category 3 or 4 storm as it slams into the Carolina coastline this weekend. Evacuations are already underway. Some say it could be the strongest storm to hit the East Coast in decades. An East Coast earthquake followed by a strong East Coast hurricane - just a coincidence, you say. I don't think so!

Let's turn our attention to the continued saga of the Middle East. Last Thursday armed terrorists crossed the Egyptian Sinai border into southern Israel attacking buses and cars just north of the Israeli port city of Eilat. Eight Israelis were killed, including six civilians. Hamas also fired over 100 rockets from Gaza into Israeli communities, reaching as far north as Ashdod and as far east as Beersheba where another civilian was killed. IAF planes were scrambled and retaliated against Hamas strongholds within Gaza. The immediate question concerned Israel's response with Egypt. A firefight ensued as IDF soldiers pursued the terrorists back into the Sinai. Sadly three Egyptian soldiers were killed. Now emotions against Israel have deepened within Egypt. The cold-peace that Israel has had with Egypt for the past 32 years is now threatened. Could another war in the Middle East be imminent? With elections supposedly to happen in Egypt in September, the prognosis does not look good.

Speaking of the Middle East, the status in Libya is still uncertain. Has Qaddafi been deposed? Where is he? Who is in charge? I know there are lots of cheers within the streets of Tripoli by the rebels claiming victory. Even American journalists have voiced delight similar to those scenes within Cairo back in January. Yet, if there is a lesson to be learned from what happened in Egypt it is that a dictator maintains a measure of stability. For all those years that Mubarak ruled in Egypt - yes, I know he was a dictator and probably a crook - Egypt still maintained a presence on the world's stage and Egypt maintained relationships of peace with its neighbors. Now look at the situation in Egypt. Will something similar happen in Libya? I am fearful that lying quietly in the background in Libya is the presence of the Muslim Brotherhood and other radical Islamist groups. They are poised to claim power there as they have in Egypt.

Democracy is not just the freedom from a dictator's rule. Democracy is the freedom to enjoy privileges and rights that were not present during a dictator's rule. Freedom to give expression to one's beliefs. Freedom to share in opportunities for personal advancement. Again, using Egypt as the model since the Arab Spring uprisings, are there more freedoms of expression in Egypt now as compared to the days of Mubarak. Ask the Coptic believers. Persecution of Coptic Christians has hit an all time high, with churches being burned and some pastors even being martyred for their faith. Democracy in Egypt - I hardly think so. Friends, I have said this before and it bears repeating, democracy is something that must be learned from another. It is not something that happens automatically. As leaders of the Free-World since World War II, we have failed to teach the world the principles of democratic rule. We have had the mistaken belief that all the world needed to do was to observe us and they would understand what democracy was. That strategy has not worked well, has it.

Let me use another analogy. Many Christians have the idea that all they have to do is live a Christ-honoring life before others. Their neighbors, family, and friends will observe them and then come to know Christ. But the Apostle Paul tells us in Romans 10:14-15 that people need to hear the vocal message of Christ. In other words, we need to teach them.

What an incredible week thus far! The days are hastening onward toward the appearance of the King. These are days filled with hope and assurance for those of us who know Christ as Savior and Lord. These are days filled with opportunities to share Him with others who do not share our hope. May we remain faithful in our service for the King!

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

What If - A Palestinian State is Created by the United Nations?

The clock continues ticking down to the September 20 date when the Palestinian Authority is scheduled to present to the United Nations its plan for a unilateral declaration of statehood. At present it appears that their Chairman Mahmoud Abbas has enough votes within the membership of the General Assembly to secure passage of his proposal. However, the status of the proposal within the Security Council is not as assured. The United States has indicated that it will not vote for the proposal, but American leaders have not stated whether they would veto or just abstain from the vote. A veto is crucial, as a mere abstention would allow the proposal to be adopted.

Let's look for a few moments at what the Palestinian Authority (PA) is asking. According to the 1933 Montevideo Convention on the Rights and Duties of States - this is the prevailing legal standard defining what constitutes a state - a state is defined as "a person of international law possessing the following qualifications: a) a permanent population; b) a defined territory; c) government; and d) capacity to enter into relations with other states. (Taken from an article titled, "The Palestinians' Imaginary State" by Steven J. Rosen, found at the Middle East Forum website -

In that article the author states that there are presently two Palestinian states that would meet the criteria of the 1933 Montevideo Convention. The first is the state of Gaza. It has a permanent population. It has a defined territory. It has a government under the leadership of Hamas, howbeit, one that certainly has not been recognized by most of the civilized world. And it has already entered into relationships with other nations, Iran being an example.

The second Palestinian state already in existence is known as the West Bank. It has a permanent population. It has a defined territory. It has a government under the leadership of Fatah. And it has already entered into relationships with other nations.

However, the state that will be presented to the United Nations General Assembly is a state that does not presently exist. It is a unification of Gaza and the West Bank into one nation. However, there are some serious difficulties here. Both entities are under different political parties, and in spite of their agreement earlier this summer to form a unified government, no such unification has occurred; instead the rift between Hamas and Fatah has seemed to widen. Furthermore, there is great concern about the legitimacy of the government of Abbas and the PA. His term of office expired in 2009, and although it was extended to 2010, new elections have not been called for within the West Bank. (Note: Abbas has hinted that he would have elections early next year, but don't take that word to the bank quite yet). Abbas has traveled extensively in Europe and South America seeking support for his proposal.

What will happen if, in September, the United Nations unilaterally declares a sovereign Palestinian State made up of Gaza, the West Bank, and East Jerusalem? According to Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, in an interview with reporters on August 7, there will be war. To quote him, "The Palestinian Authority is getting ready for bloodshed on a scale we haven't seen. The more they speak about non-violent action, the more they are preparing for bloodshed." He believes that once a declaration is adopted, Arabs from the West Bank and Gaza will flood the various checkpoints, forcing their way past IDF soldiers and into Israel's major cities.

So, as you can see, the situation pending before the United Nations in September has grave consequences. Some of you might be saying, "So, what! Why should I care?" Just last week, in a meeting with a United States Congressional Delegation visiting Ramallah, PA Chairman Abbas stated that he wants a NATO force, under the leadership of the United States, to guarantee and to guard the security of the new Palestinian state. Do you know what that means? American soldiers will be stationed in East Jerusalem, Jericho, Ramallah, Nabullus, Bethlehem, and other strategic locations along the newly created Israeli-Palestinian border. We thought Iraq and Afghanistan were bad; this will be worse. Would American forces fire upon Israeli forces? Would a situation like this totally destroy any relationship still existing between Israel and the United States?

I also see such a declaration, if it comes to pass, to be the match that lights the fuse of what we know as the Psalm 83 War. All the pieces are in place; just lacking the trigger mechanism.

What can you do? First, you can pray for Prime Minister Netanyahu, that he will remain firm in his resolve on behalf of the people of Israel. You can pray that American leadership will stand firmly behind Israel and not waver in the face of worldwide opposition. Second, you can write your legislative leaders and encourage them to tell our American Ambassador to the United Nations to veto any proposal toward a unilateral declaration of a Palestinian state.

One other interesting piece of news, not reported by the Main Stream Media. Iranian General Mohammed Reza Naqdi, commander of Iran's Basij (volunteer) forces, announced that he is ready to dispatch Iranian forces to London to act as peacekeepers. He told the Iranian Fars news agency last Thursday, "If the UN General Assembly approves, the Basij Organization is ready to send a number of Ashura and al-Zahra brigades to Liverpool and Birmingham as peacekeepers to monitor observation of human rights laws and deter use of force." Friends, that would be like having the fox guard the hen house. Protecting human rights? From a nation that has violated every human right known? From a nation that is still executing people every day as a means of quelling unrest in its own country? Oh the world has gotten crazy!

Friends, it is time we steadfastly keep our eyes on Jesus. These are not days to waver in our focus. If we do, the waves of the turmoil around us will suck us under. It is time that we warn others of the dangers of continually neglecting Jesus as there is not much time remaining.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Thoughts for Tish B'Av

Today is a very special day on the Jewish calendar. It is known as Tish B'Av - the ninth of Av. It is a day of fasting, mourning, and special prayers. Special prayer services are held at the Western Wall (the Kotel). I know you are asking, "Why should I care what Tish B'Av is?" Let me share with you what that day signifies.

In the year 586 BC, the armies under Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon assaulted and destroyed the Temple in Jerusalem. Nothing was left standing in place. Those residents of the city and of the country of Judea who survived were led captive into the land of Babylon where they would remain for seventy years. Upon their return from captivity during the days of Cyrus in 536 BC, the Jews began rebuilding their Temple, but work was stopped because of the complaints of Jerusalem's neighbors. Finally, Zerubbabel completed the project in 516 BC. This Temple paled in comparison with the one Solomon had built. When Herod the Great ascended the throne in Jerusalem as King of the Jews, he began to rebuild the Temple - a project that would take over 60 years to complete. Then in 70 AD, while putting down a Jewish revolt, the Roman army under Titus destroyed the Temple once again. Now, here is where the story gets very interesting: both destructions occurred on the very same day, some 656 years apart: Tish B'Av.

What makes this day so interesting is that in the year 1492, on Tish B'Av, King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella of Spain ordered that all Jews be exiled from Spain. It was also on Tish B'Av in 1914 that World War I began, which would eventually culminate in the rise of the anti-Semitic Nazis and their leader Adolph Hitler. I think now you can begin to understand why it became a day of national mourning.

But, what about us? Yesterday we witnessed one of the six worst days in the history of Wall Street. Millions of Americans saw their portfolios decline by thousands of dollars. Now our leaders are playing the blame game as to who is responsible. I have the answer - are you ready to hear it? We all are responsible! For too long we have grown accustomed to our government helping us out, whether it was with cheap student loans, guaranteed mortgages for our homes, subsidized prices for our crops, well, you can add to the list. It has brought us to the point where now our government has more obligations than it has cash to pay for them. Something had to give.

Then witness what happened over the weekend in London. Riots that literally set portions of that great city on fire. And I am sure that many of those taking to the streets have no idea why they are rioting. London is a portrait of what could happen across Europe.

Finally, there was the tragic loss of 31 American servicemen with the downing of their helicopter in Afghanistan. Just another reminder that after ten years of war there, we seem no closer to seeing the end. Now the cry is to bring all of our troops home. Mission: unaccomplished. Could it be another Vietnam all over again? It seems that as Americans we have lost the will to win! Since World War II - which, by the way, was a great victory of the American people and their spirit - we have not won a war.

Tish B'Av - a day of mourning for the past. Tish B'Av - a day of mourning for the present. Tish B'Av - a day of mourning for the future? That certainly appears to be the case unless we can resolve to do the difficult things. Unless we can determine that it is no longer about who we are as individuals, but what our nation is all about. Unless we once again adopt that phrase from John Kennedy's inaugural address in 1961 - "Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country."

Tish B'Av - as God destroyed that symbol of His presence among His people Israel, so God is beginning to destroy those symbols that we have clung to for so long. Will this mourning lead us to a turning to God, or to an anger directed toward others? Something to think about on this Tish B'Av 5771, or August 9, 2011.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Lessons from a Great American

I want to do something rather different for my blog this week. I know that a lot is happening around the world - more earthquakes in Japan, continued economic unrest, the trial of former Egyptian President Mubarak now underway in Egypt, a lingering war in Libya, and a growing famine in the horn of Africa. Then there is the incessant heat wave that has literally camped out over the nation's southwest and central plains. Each of the above could provide material for many blogs. But I want to focus this week upon a comparison and contrast.

Last week Marlys and I had the privilege of traveling to Springfield, IL with our kids from Rochester. Our goal was to introduce our two granddaughters to one of my heroes - Abraham Lincoln. And we were not disappointed. Friends, it is worth the time and effort to visit the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Museum there in Springfield. We spent over six hours there, and I am sure we could have spent more time. It is an amazing place with special theatre presentations and remarkable displays to help us in our understanding of our nation's 16th President.

As many of you know, Mr. Lincoln was not always a success. He failed twice in business as a store clerk and owner. (You can visit his two stores located in New Salem, just northwest of Springfield). He often was defeated in his pursuit of political office - being elected only once to the United States House of Representatives, and being defeated twice for the United States Senate seat from Illinois. But he developed a successful legal practice in Springfield and was renown throughout central Illinois for his honesty.

The year 1858 was a pivotal year for this young lawyer from Springfield. He ran against Stephen Douglas, known as the "little giant," for the Senate seat. A series of seven debates throughout Illinois began to put Abraham Lincoln upon the national political map. And, although he lost the election - in those days, senate seats were filled by appointment by the state legislatures, the nation took notice of this 6 foot 4 inch giant from America's heartland.

And, as we know, in November 1860, Abraham Lincoln was elected the 16th President of the United States. He knew that the task before him was a great one. Putting his politics aside, he began to assemble his Cabinet. Three of the men who had so strongly opposed him during the Republican convention held in 1860 in Chicago were invited to serve on his Cabinet. Lincoln wanted the best gifted men in those strategic positions.

Here is what challenged me as I toured through the Museum. Lincoln had a unwavering vision of a united America. He could not and would not accept the rush toward secession that was occurring through the South. His goal was to unify our nation; and it was with that intent that the Civil War was begun in April 1861. Only later did Lincoln come to the conclusion that the emancipation of slavery should be included as an outcome of the war.

I think it safe to say that Abraham Lincoln embodied bipartisan politics. He was an American before he was a Republican. And he had a strong commitment to his vision for America. This determination, I believe, ultimately led to the North winning the Civil War and to the reunification of America. At times I am convinced he might have been tempted to retreat from that vision - his four years as president were a challenge that unequalled any other, but he did not.

After spending several hours at the Museum, we returned to our hotel. Turning on the television we focused on the debacle happening in Washington over the "debt ceiling" crisis. I made a comment to Marlys about the contrast between what we had just observed at the Museum and were observing now in Washington. It seems that today men and women are politicians first, then are Americans. Where is a vision for a united America? Who is up to the challenge of standing upon principles, not of party, but of country? Who is willing to perhaps forfeit another election for the sake of doing what is right?

As we drove away from Springfield last Sunday, I was encouraged in heart by the life and example of one of the greatest Americans who has ever lived. We can and need to learn much from his life.